Why do Abusers Batter

Abusive men batter women as a means of power and control, to manipulate, intimidate and rule their intimate partner.

Men who abuse their partners come from all races, religions, socioeconomic classes, areas of the world, educational levels and occupations.

They often appear charming and attentive to outsiders, and even to their partners, at first. Many batterers are very good at disguising their abusive behavior to appear socially acceptable. Once they develop a relationship with a partner however, they become more and more abusive.

Domestic violence perpetrators:

  • seek control of the thoughts, beliefs and conduct of their partner
  • punish their partner for resisting control

Men who batter:

  • minimize the seriousness of their violence
  • act impulsively
  • distrust others
  • need to control people and situations
  • express feelings as anger

A batterer covers up his violence by denying, minimizing, and blaming the victim. He often convinces his partner that the abuse is less serious than it is, or that it is her fault. He may tell her that "if only" she had acted differently, he wouldn't have abused her. Sometimes he will say, "You made me do it."

Victims of abuse do not cause violence. The batterer is responsible for every act of abuse committed.

Domestic violence is a learned behavior.

It is learned through:

  • observation
  • experience
  • culture
  • family
  • community (peer group, school, etc.)

Abuse is not caused by:

  • mental illness

    Personality disorders, mental illness, and other problems may compound domestic violence, but the abusive behavior must be addressed separately.

  • genetics
  • alcohol and drugs

    Many men blame their violence on the effects of drug and alcohol use. Alcohol abuse is present in about 50 percent of battering relationships. Research shows that alcohol and other drug abuse is commonly a symptom of an abusive personality, not the cause. Men often blame their intoxication for the abuse, or use it as an excuse to use violence. Regardless, it is an excuse, not a cause. Taking away the alcohol, does not stop the abuse.

    Substance abuse must be treated before or in conjunction with domestic violence treatment programs.

  • out-of-control behavior
  • anger
  • stress
  • behavior of the victim
  • problems in the relationship

A batterer abuses because he wants to, and thinks he has a "right" to his behavior. He may think he is superior to his partner and is entitled to use whatever means necessary to control her.

Some ways batterers deny and minimize their violence

  • "I hit the wall, not her head."
  • "She bruises easily."
  • "She just fell down the steps."
  • "Her face got in the way of my fist."

Characteristics of a Potential Batterer

  • Jealousy
  • Controlling behavior
  • Quick involvement
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Isolation of victim
  • Blames others for his problems
  • Blames others for his feelings
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Cruelty to animals or children
  • "Playful" use of force during sex
  • Verbal abuse
  • Rigid sex roles
  • Jekyll and Hyde type personality
  • History of past battering
  • Threats of violence
  • Breaking or striking objects
  • Any force during an argument
  • Objectification of women
  • Tight control over finances
  • Minimization of the violence
  • Manipulation through guilt
  • Extreme highs and lows
  • Expects her to follow his orders
  • Frightening rage
  • Use of physical force
  • Closed mindedness

Abusers often try to manipulate the "system" by

  • Threatening to call Child Protective Services or the Department of Human Resources and making actual reports that his partner neglects or abuses the children.
  • Changing lawyers and delaying court hearings to increase his partner's financial hardship.
  • Telling everyone (friends, family, police, etc.) that she is "crazy" and making things up.
  • Using the threat of prosecution to get her to return to him.
  • Telling police she hit him, too.
  • Giving false information about the criminal justice system to confuse his partner or prevent her from acting on her own behalf.
  • Using children as leverage to get and control his victim.

Abusers may try to manipulate their partners, especially after a violent episode.

He may try to "win" her back in some of these ways:

  • Invoking sympathy from her, her family and friends
  • Talking about his "difficult childhood"
  • Becoming overly charming, reminding her of the good times they've had
  • Bringing romantic gifts, flowers, dinner
  • Crying, begging for forgiveness
  • Promising it will "never happen again"
  • Promising to get counseling, to change

Abuse gets worse and more frequent over time.

Perpetrator Intervention Programs For Abusers

Abusers can enter voluntarily or be court ordered to Perpetrator Intervention Programs. It is important to note that there are no guarantees that he will change his violent behavior. He is the only one that can make the decision--and commitment--to change.

There are certification guidelines for perpetrator intervention programs. Certified programs have completed a standards review process to ensure they meet guidelines. Contact your state's Coalition Against Domestic Violence for information on these standards.

An intervention program should include these factors:

  • Victim's safety is the priority
  • Meets minimum standards for weekly sessions (16 weeks)
  • Holds him accountable
  • Curriculum addresses the root of his problem
  • Makes no demand on the victim to participate
  • Is open to input from the victim

What programs teach:

  • Education about domestic violence
  • Changing attitudes and beliefs about using violence in a relationship
  • Achieving equality in relationships
  • Community participation

In the program, an abuser should become aware of his pattern of violence and learn techniques for maintaining nonviolent behavior, such as "time outs" "buddy" phone cals, support groups, relaxation techniques, and exercise.

How do you know if he is really changing?

Positive signs include:

  • He has stopped being violent or threatening to you or others
  • He acknowledges that his abusive behavior is wrong
  • He understands that he does not have the right to control and dominate you
  • You don't feel afraid when you are with him.
  • He does not coerce or force you to have sex.
  • You can express anger toward him without feeling intimidated.
  • He does not make you feel responsible for his anger or frustration.
  • He respects your opinion even if he doesn't agree with it.
  • He respects your right to say "no."

Am I safe while he is in the program?

For your own safety and your children's safety, watch for these signs that indicate problems while he is in the program:

  • Tries to find you if you've left.
  • Tries to get you to come back to him.
  • Tries to take away the children.
  • Stalks you.

If you feel you are in danger, contact your local Domestic Violence crisis line.

Six Big Lies

If you hear your partner making these statements while he is in a treatment program for abusers, you should understand that he is lying to himself, and to you.

  • "I'm not the only one who needs counseling."
  • "I'm not as bad as a lot of other guys in there."
  • "As soon as I'm done with this program, I'll be cured."
  • "We need to stay together to work this out."
  • "If I weren't under so much stress, I wouldn't have such a short fuse."
  • "Now that I'm in this program, you have to be more understanding."

Couples' Counseling does NOT work in violent relationships!

If you are struggling with a relationship, some people may advise you to get marriage counseling, or couples' counseling. While this can be good advice in some relationships, it is NOT good for couples where there is violence. In fact, in many cases, couples' counseling has increased the violence in the home.

Couples' counseling does not work because:

  • Couples' counseling places the responsibility for change on both partners. Domestic violence is the sole responsibility of the abuser.
  • Couples' counseling works best when both people are truthful. Individuals who are abusive to their partners minimize, deny and blame, and therefore are not truthful in counseling.
  • Couples resolve problems in counseling by talking about problems.

His abuse is not a couple problem, it is his problem. He needs to work on it in a specialized program for abusers.

A victim who is being abused in a relationship is in a dangerous position in couple's counseling. If she tells the counselor about the abuse, she is likely to suffer more abuse when she gets home. If she does not tell, nothing can be accomplished.

If you think you will benefit from joint counseling, go AFTER he successfully completes a batterer's intervention program and is no longer violent.